Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Reformation: Chapter Four

Notes: New chapter, a little longer, yay! Back to Cody. Poor kid, he's not having an easy time. This could lead to bad decisions. Hmm...

Title: Reformation: Chapter 4

Chapter Four


There was nothing as mortifying as being called out of a class at the Academy.

Being kicked out of a class was one thing; at least when that happened, you knew why. Cody hadn’t personally been kicked out of any of his classes so far, but Ten had a running tally from the year before that was getting close to three digits. It was almost a point of pride with hir, the ability to completely annoy, disrupt and otherwise harass hir instructors into throwing hir out of class, and then acing every test, quiz, and lab that came up. Ten’s attendance wasn’t an issue, because ze always showed up, even if ze didn’t end up staying long.

Being called out of a class, though…that meant something was really wrong. Either you’d been caught for something so awful Admiral Liang refused to wait until you were done with class to address it, or something had happened to someone else and informing you shouldn’t be put off. Cody hadn’t been the one to set their room on fire that morning, and so as soon as Hermes spoke through the implant in his head, it felt like the bottom dropped out of his stomach.

Cadet Helms, please proceed immediately to Admiral Liang’s office.

Oh, no. “What’s this about, Hermes?” After months of practice, Cody had finally gotten the hang of communicating with the Academy’s built-in AI system without speaking aloud.

The Admiral can explain things to you. Please proceed directly to his office. Your instructor has already been informed.

Well, that tore it. Cody fumbled his bag closed and walked down to the exit, careful not to make eye contact with any of the other students. His instructor glanced his way and nodded, then resolutely turned back to the rest of the class to continue the lecture.

Cody’s legs were shaking so hard he could barely walk. He wanted to run, he wanted to teleport to the admin building so he could get the news right now. Nothing was worse than hanging in limbo, not when there were so many things that could have gone wrong. Had Ten had an accident in the lab? Was it one of his dads? Was it one of his cousins? Shit, if something had happened to one of the girls Cody was going to lose it.

He made it to the administrative headquarters in a little under three minutes, which felt like a lifetime of hearing nothing but the frantic beat of his own heart reverberate through his ears. His legs finally picked up the pace as he entered the building, and by the time he got to Admiral Liang’s office Cody had worked himself up to a sprint.

Chief Jessup stood outside the door, and latched on to Cody’s arm before he could power his way through. “Slow down, Cadet.” The compassion in his flinty eyes was almost enough to make Cody faint.

“No, please, let me in, I have to—”

“He’s setting up a secure call. It’ll just take another minute or two.”

“A call to who?” Chief Jessup shook his head. “To who? I need to know!”

The door opened before Cody annoyed Chief Jessup so bad he threw him in the brig. “A call to your father,” Admiral Liang said as he stood aside, ushering Cody into his office. It was a big, impressive room, the walls covered with moving holos of different battles and ships, the floor sumptuously carpeted in the blue and gold of the Academy, and the furniture real, dark wood. Cody had never been less interested in his surroundings in all his life. “Your stepfather,” Admiral Liang clarified, and Cody’s breath suddenly came a bit easier. Garrett could handle anything. No matter what was going on, he’d know what to do.

“The comm is already set up at my desk, just press your finger to verify. Visual and audio, and none of this is being recorded.” He gently patted Cody’s shoulder, then turned and left as quiet as a whisper.

Cody sat down in the admiral’s chair. It felt huge, so much bigger than him, just like the desk and the office and the news he was about to get. He sat down, pressed his index finger to the ID pad and waited for it to identify his print, blood type and vitals, and then the holo sprang into existence above the desk. It was Garrett, and Cody felt himself slump with desperate relief. It only lasted a moment, though. Garrett looked…

Terrible. He looked like he’d been running wind sprints for hours, pale and exhausted, visibly ill. Cody had never seen him look this bad: not when Miles had been caught in an explosion, not even when Garrett had lost his eyes in a lab accident. His hair was a mess, his clothes were rumpled despite being made of cloth that was supposed to be impossible to wrinkle, and he wasn’t smiling. He always smiled for Cody, even if he followed it up with hard news. That could only mean one thing.

“Garrett?” Cody’s voice sounded weak to his ears, but he couldn’t make himself care. “What happened to Dad?”

“I don’t know for sure.” His voice was gravelly with fatigue and fear. “He made it to Pandora fine, but the colony has just come under attack.”

Cody shut his eyes and bit the inside of his cheek so hard it began to bleed. “Pirates?” he forced out.

Garrett scoffed. “This is no act of piracy. Pirates don’t persist in wasting energy against an ion shield. They wouldn’t have demolished the Eye, either; they’d have boarded it and taken it apart to sell or trade. This is an attack that’s supposed to make everyone think pirates, when nothing could be further from the truth.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s political. It keeps coming back to that, with Alexander in charge. All of the attacks on Fringe planets have been curious moves for pirates, and going after a colony as large and well-affiliated as Pandora would be suicide for a pirate ship, much less a fleet of ships numerous enough to track, which is what I’m seeing. This is President Alexander moving the focus around and hurting his opponents in the process.”

“You mean you.”

“Among other people.”

“No, you mean you specifically,” Cody bit out, his worry manifesting as anger at the only person he had to take it out on right now. “He’s going after Pandora because of you. Because it’s important to you and Dad and he knew Dad would be there, didn’t he?”

Garrett didn’t shrink away from the accusation. “Probably. But that’s not the most important thing right now.”

“What’s more important than Dad?” Cody demanded. “What could ever be more important to you than him? You should be more worried about him, what the hell is wrong with you? Do you even know if—”

Garrett actually slapped his hand down on the table in front of him, a display of temper so rare that Cody’s mouth slammed shut in shock. “Listen to me. The colony is cut off. The ship is broadcasting an SOS. Jonah was supposed to be taking Lacey for a flying lesson, so he wasn’t in the Box when the attack happened. He could have been targeted anyway, he could have run into trouble with a storm, he could be fine and seeking shelter. I don’t know, Cody. No one knows, and until I can learn more I have to deal with the rest of this fucking mess. That means making sure you’re out of the line of fire.”

“What, so I’m just a part of this fucking mess to you?”

“No. No.” Garrett rubbed a hand over his face. “You’re the most important thing to me right now, Cody. Do you understand? I need to ensure your safety. I’m sending a ship to pick you up and take you to a safe place until it blows over.”

“No, I can’t leave!” The idea was anathema. “What about Ten? What about Grennson and Darrel? I can’t leave them alone here.”

“Cody, the fleet is being mobilized to deal with this ‘pirate’ threat as a training op. Do you know what that means? It means that President Alexander is going to present this situation as an opportunity for cadets to get some experience in a real, largely secure altercation. He’s going to call people up, and I’m almost positive you and the rest of your quad will be called. And you’ll be put on a ship, maybe the ship that Miles is being reinstated on―” Garrett’s mouth twisted bitterly “―and put in the very front of the fleet, and when the firefight begins, your ship will be the only one lost. You’re going to be sent out to die, Cody, and I’m not going to let that happen to you. My people are coming to you, and I want you to leave with them. Understand?”

Cody resisted the urge to shake his head. “What about my friends?”

“I’ll talk to Admiral Liang. Together we ought to be able to come up with a plan to shield them from harm.”

“Why can’t you just do that with me? I want to be part of the fleet!” The more he thought about it, the more the idea appealed. “I want to go to Pandora and look for Dad!”

“Out of the question. You’re leaving Olympus and coming back here.”

“I won’t be any safer with you.” Cody didn’t mean for it to come out quite so harsh, but he wasn’t sorry when Garrett winced. “You already said he’s targeting us because of you. That means he’ll be looking for this, and he’ll be watching for me to leave.”

“He can’t watch everything. I can get you to safety.”

“I don’t want to be safe, I want to help!”

“And I want your father here with me and my father safe in retirement again, but it looks like neither of us is getting our way!” Garrett shut his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he looked mostly calm. Cold, but calm. “I need you not to fight me on this. Please. I need you safe. Your dad would want you to be safe.”

Maybe that was true, but Cody didn’t feel like agreeing with Garrett right now. “My dad would want to know we cared enough about him to go after him. He’d do it for us.”

“That’s enough.”


“My ship will be to you in five hours. By tomorrow morning, this incident will be all over the newsfeeds. You need to be out of there before that happens. Do you understand me?”

Fuck you. Cody wasn’t quite furious enough to say that to Garrett’s face, though. “Yes,” he gritted.

“Good. I’ll see you soon. I love you.”

Cody didn’t want to hear it―he didn’t want to hear one of his parents talking about love when the other one might be dead. How could Garrett even be thinking of love? How could he be thinking at all? “Bye,” he said shortly, and ended the call. Cody stared at the swirling pattern of the wooden surface for a long moment before coming to his decision.

Fine. He needed to be out of here by tomorrow? He would be. And he’d be gone before Garrett’s ship ever got to him, too. There was another way to get to Pandora.

It was time to take Jack up on his offer to see the ‘verse, Drifter style.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reformation: Chapter Three

Notes: Have some happy married person sex! I mean, it's a flashback, but it's still nice. Also, plot.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Three


Chapter Three


Garrett wasn’t panicking.

Panic wasn’t something he did. Panic was for people who didn’t know how to handle the unexpected. Panic was for people who got caught off-guard. Panic wasn’t for someone who had a contingency for almost everything. Garrett wasn’t panicking―he was being concertedly concerned.

Jonah’s call was late. Garrett let it go for a while, but after an hour, he called Jonah’s personal comm. No reply, just the message machine. Then he tried the house, but apparently the power had been out. So, a storm? The colony was shielding, interfering with the comm arrays? Garrett tried the comm on Jonah’s ship just to check, but instead of a blank signal, he got a steady dot dot dot-dash dash dash-dot dot dot: the SOS call signal, a universal cry for help. That could mean a lot of things, though; it wasn’t necessarily that the ship was disabled. He tried Jezria Dowd, an old friend and Pandora’s former governor, and again got nothing.

What the fuck was going on?

Three hours and two hacked Federation comm satellites later, and Garrett finally managed to bring up a broad energy signature for Pandora. If there was a bad storm, then he should be seeing almost nothing of the colony itself, and maybe a dozen personal ship docked at the tiny space station above the planet. Instead he saw…

Garrett blinked, then counted again. Almost thirty mid-sized energy signatures, all of them active, none of them big enough to be the space station. Which meant that there was no space station. Pandora’s Eye, it had been called. Well, now it looked like Pandora was blind.

Garrett was dimly aware of his heart rate increasing, but he ignored his sympathetic nervous system’s response to his unacknowledged stress and kept looking at the energy signatures, searching for anything that would serve to identify the ships milling around above the colony. He read streams of data that could only be live fire, most of it seeming to splash off the barrier below. Pandora City was equipped with an energy shield that could hold off the worst storms the planet had to offer. If there had been time, one of the engineers could have modified it to reflect, or at least reduce, the impact of the plasma fire. If Garrett had been there, he could have done it in under ten minutes. If he’d been there.


“You could come with me.” Jonah’s hand stroked Garrett’s arm with absent tenderness as they lay together in bed. Touching Garrett like this was unconscious for Jonah, something he didn’t even think about before doing. Garrett thought about it, though. He felt every brush, catalogued every kiss and hoarded them like credits. He didn’t mention it to Jonah, in case it made his husband self-conscious, but it was one of his favorite things about him. Expressing his love came so easily to Jonah, it made it that much harder for Garrett to disappoint him.

“I can’t. I’m sorry,” and he genuinely was, “but with the election coming up, I really have to be here.”

Jonah sighed. “You’re not even runnin’ for office, you get that, right?”

“I know, but I might be able to tone down some of the violent rhetoric, and all this stupid business about not being able to vote if you don’t have an implant. It’s a last-ditch effort by the Central contingent to disenfranchise colony voters who can’t afford embedded implants, and I’m not going to let—”

Jonah laughed. “Oh my lord, I know, darlin’. I know. I’ve been hearin’ you talk about it for months now.”


“Don’t be sorry. I get it. I shouldn’t be complaining. I’m just gonna miss you, that’s all.”

“I’ll miss you too.” He would. Garrett could barely breathe when he thought about it, being separated from his husband for months at a time. He was on the verge of asking Jonah to stay, but that wasn’t fair. Jonah wanted to be useful, and running much-needed supplies out to Pandora did that for him. Garrett had been selfish with their lives for long enough. He could let someone else have their way.

For a while, at least.

Garrett rolled on top of his husband, straddling his waist and grinding his ass down against Jonah’s groin. It had barely been ten minutes since they’d finished their last round, but he felt Jonah’s soft, sticky cock begin to thicken against his bare skin.

“Darlin’,” Jonah groaned, moving his hands to Garrett’s waist and stroking his sides. “You tryin’ to kill me?”

“I’m just making sure I give you some fond memories,” Garrett said lightly, but he kept moving, rubbing up against Jonah and getting both of them hard again, fast. He leaned in for a kiss that quickly went from sweet to hot, soft lips to clashing tongues. “And something to look forward to returning to,” he gasped when they separated for a moment.

“You could never fuck me again and I’d still look forward to comin’ back to you every time,” Jonah groaned. “Don’t mean you can’t fuck me now, though,” he added, and Garrett reached back and positioned him at his entrance. “Darlin’, wait—”

“It’s fine,” Garrett assured him. “I’m still good from last time, I’m good. I want it like this.” The penetration stung a little, but he was still relaxed and slick inside, and too soon he sat flush to his husband’s hips, moaning, rocking back and forth as he took Jonah as deep as he could.

“Sweetheart.” Jonah leaned up on one hand and pulled Garrett into a kiss. Their whole torsos were flush together now, Garrett’s cock pressed tight to Jonah’s stomach. “This what you need?”

Garrett nodded jerkily. “Yeah.” This and more, every day for the rest of forever. Garrett had long ago come to terms with his greed when it came to his family, but Jonah had a way of making that vice seem like a virtue, because he was so happy to give Garrett everything he could. Their life together, their son, every hope that Garrett had for the future: all wrapped up in the generosity of this one, single person. It made being less honorable than Jonah bearable, when Garrett knew he was wanted anyway. “Like this.”

They shifted so Jonah could lean against the wall, which Garrett softened with a quick touch to the control panel. He barely moved, just enveloped Jonah like if he tried hard enough he could subsume him, and Jonah held him tight, hitching his hips just enough to give them some friction. It was slow, drawn-out and delicious, the sort of sex Garrett hadn’t even known he could have until he met Jonah. It was less about the heat and spark of getting off fast and more about being close, joyful with and in each other, a long goodbye for their minds and hearts.

Jonah finally came with a hitching sigh, and Garrett leaned back just far enough to slide his hand between them and stroke himself off. They moved flat onto the bed again, and Garrett shut his eyes and soaked in the perfection of how he felt right now. He’d need to recall the feeling a lot over the next few months.

Jonah kissed his shoulder. “Love you, darlin’.”


Garrett couldn’t remember whether he’d said it back or not. He could remember everything else about that night with perfect clarity, but he couldn’t remember saying “I love you.” Not that Jonah didn’t know, of course he knew, but still…

An incoming comm drew him out of his fugue. Garrett blinked and accessed the call. “Claudia?”

“Garrett, what’s going on?”

“Where? With what?”

“With Miles!”

Miles?  “What are you talking about?”

“He got an emergency message from Federation Central Command calling him to report in! They sent a ship to take him down to Olympus―he left five minutes ago. The message didn’t explain anything, not a damn thing, just said he had to show up or risk court-martial.”

Garrett frowned. “They can’t court-martial him, he isn’t active duty.”

“Could that be changing?” Claudia asked tentatively.

“I don’t―” See how, he wanted to finish, but all of a sudden Garrett could see exactly how his father’s duty status might be changing. “Call your aides on-planet,” Garrett told his father’s wife. “Get them to the command office as fast as possible, so Miles has some backup on site. Get them started on filing a public records request for everything that’s happening to Miles right now, and get them in touch with the legal team. We need to get everything that’s going on into the public sphere, and we need the reveal to be as fast as possible.”

“Is it President Alexander?” Claudia didn’t wait for him to reply. “It is; it has to be. He’s making his move now, before the election. He’s getting Miles out of the way somehow.”

“And I think I know where he’s sending him,” Garrett muttered, staring balefully at the energy signatures swanning through space over Pandora. “You and the girls should get away from here.”

“Where would we go? Where’s out of Alexander’s reach? And I’m not going anywhere until I know what’s happening with Miles.”

“Fair enough.” For a moment Garrett’s throat ached with the urge to tell Claudia what was happening over Pandora, to share his suspicions with a sympathetic ear. Now wasn’t the time for dwelling on potentials, though. Garrett needed more information, and fast. “I’ll contact you as soon as I know something, all right?”

“All right. Thank you, Garrett.”

“I’m always here for you. You’re family.” He ended the call, then started another one.

There was still one member of his family he hadn’t talked to, and Garrett wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else without knowing Cody was safe. If what he thought was happening was verified, then the Academy wouldn’t be safe enough.

He needed to pull Cody out now, before it was too late.



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reformation: Chapter Two

Notes: Some Jonah POV for you. Omigosh, don't hurt me.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Two

Chapter Two


Jonah winced as he heard his ship’s thrusters whine indignantly and wondered, for not the first time, why he was doing this. “Ease up on the throttle, Lacey. You’re gonna rattle us right apart at this rate.”

Lacey scowled from where she sat in the copilot’s seat. It wasn’t all that different from her expression when they’d lifted off an hour ago, honestly. “It’s this storm, it keeps screwing with me. I thought this thing had stabilizers?”

“It does, but you have to practice things the hard way too,” he reminded her. “You’ll be tested on whether or not you can fly one of these ships without stabilizers to help you. Eventually I’ll shut off one of the engines too—” he shut his eyes briefly as the ship jumped and almost spun out on an updraft for the tenth time in two minutes, “—but not today,” he finished. “C’mon, you’re better with this class of ship than you think. Just handle the controls like you did in the simulation.”

“But this isn’t a simulation!”

“No, which is why you’ve got to—proximity alert, Lacey, we’re getting too close to the heart of the storm.” The ship was built to withstand lightning strikes, but the manufacturers hadn’t imagined how bad storms could be on Pandora. “Get us some altitude.” She grunted and leaned into the throttle. It wasn’t easy, but the ship gradually veered away from the hurricane that was whipping across the edge of the ocean as she set them on a higher course a bit closer to land. “Now can I use the stabilizers?” she asked around gritted teeth.

Jonah checked their position. “Turn the autopilot on.”

“I don’t need the autopilot!”

“You need a break, honey. Turn the autopilot on for a minute, okay?”

“Fine.” Lacey pracically slammed the lever into auto mode. Instantly the ship’s course steadied. Jonah set them to flying in easy circles, then turned toward his son’s childhood best friend.

“What’s going on here, Lace?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She didn’t meet his eyes, though, staring sullenly out at the lashing rain that beat across the viewscreen. It didn’t obscure the holographic projection of their course, but it sure made things dark in the cockpit.

“I’m talking about you jerking around on those controls like you’re trying to hold onto a catterpet’s tail. You’ve flown one of these before, Lacey, and I’m right here with you. You don’t have to be nervous.”

“I’m not nervous.”

“Then what are you?” No response. Jonah suddenly felt tired. “Fine. You want to keep it to yourself, that’s your right, but I’m not going to let you take your mood out on my ship. We’re heading back to the Box.”

That got her attention. “No! I don’t want to go back yet!”

“Well, I’m not going to let you fly when you can’t focus, and it’s my ship.”

“I’ll do better, I promise.”

Jonah sighed. “Lacey…”

“My dad is leaving today, all right?” She blurted it out like it had been suffocating her. “He took a contract to fly for one of the syndicates. He’s going to command staff aboard a cruise liner in the Central System.”

Jonah was dumbfounded. “What about Ellie and the other kids?”

Lacey’s eyes went flinty. “He’s taking them with him, of course. Why not? They’re his normal family. He doesn’t have to worry about them having an asthma attack or getting the Ceylan Flu. I asked if I could go with him, but he said I was an adult now and I needed to learn to make my own way in the ‘verse.” Her hands clenched into fists. “That’s why I have to learn to pilot one of these. How else will I ever get off of Pandora?” She looked away, but not before Jonah saw her eyes fill with tears.

“Nothing ever happens here! Cody gets to do everything, he gets to go to the Academy and visit Perelan and his whole life is so exciting, and I’m stuck here doing nothing except being given shots!”

“Y’know, not all of that excitement was good for Cody,” Jonah pointed out. Lacey waved his cautions away with the blithe dismissal of an immortal teenager.

“Yeah, but he got through it all fine. And Krystal left six months ago, and Jo’ El is going to work as a miner. A miner! He got a job on a mining ship, even though he’s a natural! Why can’t I do that? I want to go somewhere. I want to do something with myself. And I’m going to do it without my fucking father’s help.”

“Lacey.” Jonah set a hand on her shoulder. “You know he loves you. I’m sure he just wants the best for you.”

Her face crumpled. “No he doesn’t.” Before he could react, she’d unbuckled her harness and flung herself into his lap, pressing her face to his shoulder.

Jonah sighed and patted her back. “Aw, honey.”

“I knew he’d never take me with him.” Her words were muffled, but he could make them out. “He brought me here just to leave me, he only waited until I was old enough to be on my own and now he’s going back to his life in the Central System. He doesn’t care, and I don’t want to be here anymore!”

“Well…” Hell, Garrett was going to kill him for this. “You could always come back with me.”

Lacey’s shuddering breaths suddenly froze. “Re-really?”

“Sure. If you get your pilot’s certification, that is. You could help me run supplies between here and Olympus. Garrett can walk you through getting the permits for it.”

Lacey pulled back and looked at him. “Are you sure it’s okay?”

“Not completely,” Jonah said. He had to be honest. “But we can talk to Garrett about it when we get back. I’m supposed to comm him in an hour.”

“We should go back now!”

“Nah, we’ve still got some—” The proximity alert suddenly shattered the relative silence, screaming at full volume. Lacey jumped back and Jonah reached for the controls, checking the computer. “What the hell?” The ship rocked as something blasted past it. Lightning? But they were well away from the center of the storm. “Buckle in!” he shouted at her as he took over flying. “Computer, identify projectile!” Maybe something had gotten swept up in the hurricane, maybe it was a really large chunk of ice—

“Classification: energy projectile.”

“Like lightning?” Lacey asked as she strapped herself back into her seat, face pale.

Jonah shook his head grimly. The computer knew how to differentiate between natural and man-made strikes. “No, that was a plasma weapon. Somethin’s shooting at us.”

Shooting at us?

The proximity alert picked up again. Jonah made a split-second decision and hauled back on the thrusters while cutting power down to the engines by ninety percent. The ship rolled onto its end, torpedoing down toward the roiling ocean beneath them faster than the g-shield could adjust for. The next burst of plasma fire missed as well, but Jonah couldn’t count on the storm to keep helping them and hindering whoever was attacking them. They needed to get back to the Box.

He thumbed the communicator on. “This is Helms, calling Box Station. Station, do you copy?” Nothing but static. “Station, do you copy?”

“Why won’t they answer?”

“It might be the storm,” Jonah said. He didn’t articulate what else it might be. If something was firing on them in the middle of a fucking hurricane, then it was likely that Pandora City was under attack.

“What if it isn’t?”

“Lacey—shit!” Jonah ripped the ship to the right, not quite far enough to avoid the next blast. It grazed the belly of the ship, and the sudden blare of security alarms almost drowned out the wailing proximity alert. Jonah grimly checked the controls. Well, there went their landing gear. “I’ve gotta put us down.” He could see the edge of the cliffs that protected the colony from the worst of the weather.

“Put us down where?” she demanded. “There’s no protection out here from the storms! We’ll be swept off the rocks into the ocean as soon as the hurricane hits the coast.”

“Either we take our chances on land or we get blown to pieces in the air!” Jonah diverted the power to all non-critical functions and boosted the excess to the thrusters. This was going to be hell on the engines.

He increased their speed by seventy-five percent, losing most of their maneuverability in the process. The cliffs were coming up fast, but the proximity alert was starting to pick up speed again. Their angle of potential descent was so narrow… a lot depended on whether or not the bottm of the ship would be able to handle the impact. The thrusters could help there, but only as long as Jonah didn’t blow them out during their mad dash toward the lesser evil. Three kilometers. Two. One…

A flare of energy crackled across the viewscreen, killing the computer. The ship wavered, but managed to maintain its altitude. Only now, Jonah couldn’t actually see any of the projections that had filled his vision a moment ago. The last plasma strike had taken out all the automatic functions.

“God motherfucking damn it all to deep space hell,” he muttered. “Okay. Brace yourself, Lacey, this is gonna be rough.”

She was staring blank-faced at the dark screen. “I can’t see the ground.”

“I remember where it is, we’ll be fine.”

“I can’t see the ground!

“Well, you’re gonna be feeling it any second, so get ready for—”

The impact snapped Jonah into his harness so hard he felt two ribs break. Blood filled his eyes, gushed from his nose. White light turned to red, which quickly faded to black.

Jonah passed out before the ship finished rolling.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Brief Post About Cambodia

Hi darlins!

Some of you might remember that my MIL is doing the Peace Corps in Cambodia. Her blog was entered in a Peace Corps-wide competition, and if she gets enough likes to make the cut, she'll be sent to DC to be part of a group of volunteers presenting on and talking about their service. It would be amazing for her, and so I'm going all out.

If you follow the link down there and like the photo from her blog on Facebook (it's below, it's a cow, Cambodia is stamped across the left-hand corner), then you're totally fantastic and I love you! I'll write a special vignette for you all if she makes it to DC ;)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Reformation: Chapter One

Notes: Cody! Ten! Darrel! Grennson! Now we're cooking :)

Title: Reformation, Chapter One


Chapter One


Cody woke up to the acrid smell of something that probably wasn’t supposed to be able to catch on fire bursting into flame. A second later the fire alarm began to sound. It said something about Cody’s adaptability over the past year that all he did was grab Ten’s abandoned pillow and press it over his face.

“It’s fine, everything is fine, I’ve got a handle on it!”

“It’s too early for this,” Cody mumbled. There was no way Ten had heard him over the sound of the alarm, but there was also very little chance ze’d care about waking Cody up, under the circumstances. After all, “sacrifices have to be made for science, if it was easy any idiot could do it!” was Ten’s motto.

Their door banged open. “What the hell, Ten?” Ah, Darrel was up.

“Oh, go back to bed, I’ve got this under control.”

“You think anyone on our entire floor can sleep through the noise? I thought you had official lab space this year!”

“Yes, one tiny cubicle of a lab surrounded by people who have no idea of the concept of privacy and keep interrupting my work. Like I can get anything important done there.”

“They sound a lot like your kind of people, actually.” Darrel raised his voice. “I swear, Ten, if you don’t shut this noise off, I’m going to—” Whatever he was going to do was drowned out by the sudden whistling fizz of a fire suppression system going off.

A second later the alarm shut off. Nobody said anything, which was weird enough that Cody poked his head out from under the pillow and took a peek.

Ten’s recessed lab space—a reclaimed section of closet that ze’d convinced Cody neither of them needed—was coated from top to bottom in the neon orange foam that the suppression system in the ceiling had let loose with. Unfortunately, both Ten and Darrel had been in the path of it, and were covered from the tops of their heads to the center of their chests in the same foam.

“So,” Ten said a moment later. “Try not to ingest the foam, it’s toxic.”


“What? So I started a little fire, so what? It’s out now, no harm done, and I’ve learned some very interesting things about the properties of this particular formula.”

“Such as?” Darrel asked acidly.

“Such as its volatility is more easily expressed than my initial hypothesis suggested, and while it has a lot of redeeming factors statistically speaking, I’m not comfortable potentially injecting my cell lines with a substance that might set them on fire, much less an actual person.” Ten sniffed. “See? This is me being careful, take note of that.”

“I’ll take note of the fact that we’re supposed to be in class in hirty minutes and you just set all of us back thanks to your little science experiment.”

“Little? It’s not little, it’s huge, this could change the entire field of medicine and also, testy much? Honestly, what’s made you so angry this week?” Ten’s tone turned speculative. “Could it have something to do with the fact that you’re sleep deprived due to taking almost double the normal course load thanks to splitting your time between command and linguist tracks? Which is a stupid thing to do, by the way. Any moron could see that you’re much better suited for the linguist track.”

You’re taking more than double the normal course load. You have no room to criticize me.”

“I’m a genius insomniac egomaniac, I can handle all those classes and get through the tests and practicals with my eyes closed.” Ten sounded frustrated, and Cody knew why. This was hir way of trying to be supportive, as incredible as that seemed, but Darrel had refused to be comforted by anyone since they got back from Perelan, even Grennson. He’d had a meeting with his mother and grandparents, and in the space of an hour they’d said something to him that had affected him, badly enough that he’d added the command track classes. They were all curious about what had happened, and why, but the only person likely to get the truth out of Darrel anytime soon was Grennson. That didn’t mean Ten wouldn’t stop trying, though, so Cody sighed and sat up in the interest of heading off a fight.

“We have to leave soon. You guys should shower.”

Darrel rolled his eyes, turned and stalked out of their room. Now that the scent of burning had mostly been carried away by the ventilation system, Cody could smell the savory spice of Grennson’s muffins in the kitchen. Those were definitely worth getting up for.

He and Ten stared at each other for a moment, silent and assessing. Ten looked wary, and slightly haughty, even covered in orange foam. They’d already had an argument about Ten’s extra projects since getting back, Ten unusually adamant about pursuing the one ze’d set up in their room. Cody wasn’t interested in bringing it up again. “You can autoclave that, right?” he asked, pointing at the tiny lab space.

“Of course I can.” It was subtle, but he could hear the relief in Ten’s voice. Funny—Cody was the one who usually went out of his way to avoid confrontation. This project was keeping Ten strangely on edge, though. “And I totally will, I have nanotech embedded in the walls and it’ll shunt everything outside of the beakers into the tower’s waste system.” The fact that the four of them were together again this year, somehow wrangling a quad on the bottom floor of Apollo Tower, was nothing short of a miracle. Cody sensed the guiding hand of Admiral Liang in the arrangement, but he wasn’t about to question it too hard.


“That’s really all you have to say about this?”

“Why, do you want me to scold you?” Cody raised an eyebrow and grinned suggestively. “’Cause I can do that, but I really didn’t think you were into that sort of thing.”

“I’m not much into the concept of foreplay, but verbal stimulation could be something we should try to incorporate into our sex in the interest of covering all potential avenues of getting off.”

“So sexy,” Cody deadpanned. “Oh baby, tell me more about the techniques we need to incorporate into the satisfaction of our biological and emotional urges, it’s such a turn on.”

Ten blinked. “If I weren’t covered in foam I’d jump you right now.”

“The fact that you’re not doing it is evidence that you’re crazy in love with me.”

Ten grinned. “True.” Ze grabbed a change of clothes off hir bed—it had become their unofficial extra storage space since losing the closet and deciding they’d rather sleep together anyway—and headed into the bathroom. Cody got up, pulled on fresh clothes and headed straight out into the common room. Their tiny kitchenette was on the right, and Grennson was just pulling fluffy muffins out of their antique oven. Not many people knew how to use the old technology when it came to baking, but Grennson was a purist about his food, even the stuff that wasn’t Perel in origin.

“Hey.” Cody came up beside him and inhaled deeply. “Those smell amazing.”

“Thank you. They are my father Jason’s recipe.”

“I know.”

“He would occasionally long for human food during his time on Perelan, and Ferran learned how to make all of his favorites for when Jason was too busy to do it himself.” Grennson continued like Cody hadn’t spoken at all. “I learned the same. These should be eaten with butter.”

“Yeah, I know—”

“I will get it.”

“Grennson.” Cody reached out and caught his friend’s milky-pale hand, squeezing gently. Grennson froze, his quills quivering with pent-up emotion. “What’s wrong?”

“I feel…unsettled.”

“Like homesick?” They’d just left Perelan a few weeks ago, after all. Cody would understand if Grennson was unhappy with the separation. They’d managed a brief rendezvous with Jonah on the way back, with Cody’s dad on a supply run to Pandora, but Jason and Ferran had been recalled to Perelan immediately after dropping them off at the Academy. Grennson was an empath, sensitive to the people around him, and especially his family.

To Cody’s surprise, he shook his head. “This is more generalized. More pervasive. Something is different about the Academy this year, Cody. There is a sense of expectation in our instructors, something that isn’t necessarily good. It feels like people are bracing themselves, but they don’t know what for.”

“Do you think it has to do with the election?” The Federation’s five-year election was being held this term, and every media outlet was already blistering with attacks on every candidate. Ads were being run for politicians not even from this planet—it didn’t make any sense to Cody. Pandora was a small colony, and elections had been simple, fast and never contested. Seeing the circus the Central System made of them was exhausting.

“Possibly,” Grennson allowed. “I know little of such politics. Perelan’s matriarchies are inherited positions.”

“Even those don’t always go uncontested, though.” Grennson’s own adopted father was proof of that. Ferran was officially his mother Grenn’s heir, even though he was biologically male. He would be the first male House ruler in tens of thousands of years.

“No, but they aren’t so pervasive, either.” Grennson shrugged, a human quirk he’d picked up over the years. “I hope that’s all it is. I can bear it either way.”

“Good. If you need help, let me know.” Cody cast a hopeful look at the muffins. “Can I have one of those now?”

“Of course.”

Bad feelings or no, crazy science experiments and packed schedules or not, Cody was excited for the new year. He had his friends with him, his family was healthy and happy, and he had recovered really well from the environmental challenges of Perelan. As far as he was concerned, everything was off to a perfect start.

Last year’s awfulness had been an anomaly. This year was going to be better. How could it not be?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Reformation: Prologue

Notes: It's here! Time to start the sequel to The Academy (and to Redstone, and to basically everything in the Bonded universe). While the story will mostly focus on Cody and Ten, there will be occasions when I digress into Garrett, Jonah, and numerous others that I've touched on before. Why? Because this is going to get messy.

Enjoy Reformation, darlins!

Title: Reformation: Prologue




Raymond Alexander had never known how his father, Foster Alexander’s, mind worked. He had only a few memories from the brief period in which Raymond had been interesting to the powerful Alexander family patriarch, before any of his siblings were born. The one that stuck with him, that had in fact inspired him throughout his long and illustrious career in politics, was the recollection of his father gifting him with a holographic mobile. It had a central stem with a few little limbs branching off from it, and at the end of each limb was a tiny leaf-shaped cup. Foster had held it up to Raymond and demonstrated how it worked.

“You see?” he’d said, moving the limbs around so they were exactly opposite from each other. “This way they balance. You can spin the mobile and nothing falls out. But move them like this—” he set them on the same side, “—and the whole thing tips, and the cups spill over.” And so they did, glittering holographic waterfalls cascading down onto Raymond’s bedspread.

Raymond had made a face. “That’s messy.”

“It is, but that can be beautiful too,” Foster had said. “You can add more limbs if you want to make the game harder.” He’d demonstrated by adding a third branch, and setting them all to counteract each other once again. “You see?”

“Yes, Papa.”

His father had kissed his hair. “Of course you do. You’re a smart boy.”

Raymond had been captivated by that mobile. By the end of a month he’d had it bristling with branches, loaded down with multiple cups on each one of them. He considered it a personal triumph that he’d made it so heavy, but so well balanced. He hated spilling the cups. He wanted everything to remain in perfect equilibrium forever.

Of course, nothing ever did. As Raymond grew older, he swiftly came to realize that the only sure place one could have in the universe was whatever place you carved for yourself. You had to take control and hold onto it, because wherever power began to pool, that was where the sharks came swimming. Foster hadn’t seen that. He’d been a dying sun, brilliant and bright but too big to maintain, destined for a violent collapse. He’d left Raymond’s mother, married and remarried, had far too many children, too many draws on his time. He had been a liability to Raymond’s own ascendancy, in the end. And Raymond had finally taken his father’s advice to heart: that some messes were necessary, and in their own, cleansing way, could be beautiful as well.

Raymond had reigned supreme among his family. He’d reigned supreme among all the lawmakers and power players within the Federation. Unchallenged, Raymond could allow himself to be a benevolent ruler. Challenges, though…well. They couldn’t be born. And he had born far too many of them lately.

Kyle’s loss still burned him. Kyle was the son he should have had, the child that should have always been his. Kyle was Raymond’s greatest failure, and he couldn’t be allowed to live and sully a corner of Raymond’s mind with regret. He wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for Garrett Helms.

Garrett was fascinating to Raymond, in the way one predator fascinated another. He was chaotic where Raymond was ordered, appealed to emotions where Raymond strove to be logical in all things. Yet his success in the Senate was undeniable. He’d established himself on his father’s reputation, then surpassed Miles rapidly as a statesmen and lawmaker. He was charismatic, attractive and had a compelling personal story, what with the suicide of his mother and the adoption of his little family. An ex-Drifter and a natural son…ridiculous, but people lapped the dichotomy up. Raymond wondered what Garrett had offered Jonah to get him to agree to the charade. Better care for his son, most likely.

Raymond had been tolerant, to a point. Garrett’s interference at the Academy had been too much to bear, however. His fate had been sealed the moment his “son” had set foot on that campus. But after his interference with Kyle?

Now Raymond was going to enjoy destroying every aspect of Garrett’s life before he eliminated the competition.

First things first: he needed to check in with the black fleet. Organizing and deploying what amounted to a personal, covert armada had been the work of decades, but then, this idea had been in the works for almost half a century now. The Federation was weakened by the inclusion of so many colonies outside the Central System, all populated by the worst facets of civilized society: the weak, the sick, and the strange. They were more a drain on resources than an asset to the whole, and so they had to go.

Colonization was one of the founding pillars of the Federation, however, and people would dig their heels in if Raymond simply moved to end the practice. He had to make the colonies more trouble than they were worth to the Central System. He had to get them to end themselves. Fomenting rebellion among different political groups on various worlds had worked for a while, but the process was too slow, and the new leaders more often than not ended up wanting to remain a part of the Federation even if they’d campaigned and fought for the idea of independence. It was exactly the kind of backward, rural thinking that Raymond wanted to discourage.

In the end, the dark fleet had been a better option. After all, most of the colonies had little to no surface-to-space armaments. He could deploy his forces, acting under the guise of piracy, and do all the damage that needed to be done with no personal interactions at all, and no one the wiser. Or at least, no one able to prove anything else. His contingent had gone along with the charade, and it would have been perfect, if Garrett and his family hadn’t decided to muddy the waters. Now Raymond was done playing games.

Raymond checked Garrett’s schedule. His information had been compiled by spies, since Raymond was still unable to get through the man’s encryptions, but it was close enough. Jonah Helms was back on Pandora, on another of his missions of mercy, bringing supplies to the colony and pushing a possible alliance with his former Drifters, who actually hadn’t accompanied him on this trip.

Cody Helms, meanwhile, had just arrived back at the Academy for the start of his second year. All his little friend were with him, too, including the alien and the one that was over-interested in science. Good.

Miles Caractacus, Garrett’s father, was actually the easiest one to handle. Raymond simply began the man’s reinstatement process in the Federation marines as an active duty general. By the time Miles was informed of the change, events would be in place that would require him to accept it, or be brought to trial for dereliction of duty. Raymond wasn’t sure how close Garrett was to his father—Raymond could barely remember being close to his own—but the way Garrett relied on the man was evident. There went one cup, tipping.

The next step was putting in a notice to Admiral Liang that he should prepare for the possibility of live interaction opportunities for his cadets. Weathering some skirmishes with pirates would be good for them, especially once the wrong people had the right interactions.

Finally, there was the mobilization of the dark fleet for another strike, this time on Pandora. Raymond trusted Vice-Admiral Carver Orwell as much as he could trust anyone. Raymond had made the prospect of obedience to his will far more palatable than the alternative, and Orwell had always been a better fighter than anything else. He’d relished the opportunity to put his bloodthirst to work, and Raymond was happy to keep supplying him with targets.

He opened a connection through his private transponder—verbal only, he wasn’t a complete fool—and paged Orwell. Even accounting for the lag time, his field commander got back to him quickly. “Sir?”

“It’s time.”

“Yes, sir.” Orwell’s voice seemed to thicken with satisfaction. “Confirm target Pandora.”


“To what degree?”


There was a pause. “It’ll be hard to sell that as piracy, sir.”

“Consider your cover as gaining some depth, Commander. Losing some inhibitions with the headiness of success. I’ll have to send a force out to respond,” he added absently, “but it will be understaffed and underprepared. You’re authorized to fully engage on all fronts.”

“Excellent.” The satisfaction was back, and stronger than ever. “We’ve been stagnating out in this backwater.”

“Well, then you can look forward to some action at last.” Raymond took a slow breath. “Let Operation Reformation begin now.”

“Yes, sir.”

Raymond ended the connection and sat back in his chair. Within twenty-four hours, Pandora would be under attack. And after that?

It was just a matter of time until all the cups tipped, and Raymond would drown Garrett in the mess it made.